More Is Better Than Less

Sunmark Federal Credit Union used crowdsourcing to shop around the redesign of its website. The process saved money and allowed the credit union to review ideas from designers all over the world.


The AT&T It’s Not Complicated commercial campaign is out to prove the service provider’s 4G network is the best in the country. Why? Well, according to the kids featured in the television spots, it’s not complicated: More is better than less. A similar logic prompted Sunmark Federal Credit Union ($400.3M, Latham, NY) to crowdsource the redesign of its website. By posting the project to a crowdsourcing hub for freelancers, the credit union marketing team was able to review 84 design templates submitted by dozens of designers from all over the world. Compared to the two or three options the credit union would have seen if it hired a design shop, it got a significantly higher return from its crowdsourcing strategy. More is better, it’s not complicated.

“When I first came here, we said we need to take the website, overhaul it, and rebuild it from scratch,” says Steve Keator, a new media specialist with Sunmark who joined the institution in the fall of 2011.

More Designs Is Better Than Less …

The decision to crowdsource its website redesign was the result of brainstorming sessions among the marketing team members.

“I thought it was a neat idea that we could go out and get a whole load of designs to pick from without spending too much money,” Keator says.

Sunmark used 99designs, an online design marketplace, to attract freelance designers. The credit union sponsored a design contest in which it listed the project’s requirements along with the institution’s logo and branding elements such as fonts and color schemes. As part of the design proposal, marketing asked for five website templates and designated the pages it wanted to see. During the contest, marketing worked through 99designs to ask designers to make changes or to see more of a design.

“We could see a design come in and may love most of the elements of it but say, ‘hey we see this a certain way,’” Keator says. “For the most part, these designers were really good about [making changes] and getting it back to us with a slight modification.”

The design process took approximately six weeks. During that time, the marketing team held several meetings to decide what direction to go with the new site. Keator and the marketing team started with 84 design templates. In subsequent meetings, they narrowed those down to 10, five, two, and then The One.

The site they eventually chose was from a designer in Guatemala. It’s not too surprising the winner was foreign, though, because the credit union received submissions from all over the world.

“The language barrier was one of the biggest struggles of this process,” Keator says. “You get people from all over the world. Some of them don’t speak English very well; sometimes they wouldn’t know what I was talking about. It did make it a little bit of a struggle. I think in the end it worked out very well, but it’s possible we could have seen some better designs if that language barrier wasn’t in place.”

… But Less Time And Money Is Better Than More

Despite communication hurdles, the number and quality of submitted designs and the cost savings are enough to tip the scale in favor of crowdsourcing.

“We definitely saved money over doing this with a local design house,” Keator says. “But not only did we save money, we got so many different options to choose from. Normally you go into a design house and they’re going to come back with a design or two depending on the amount of money you pay. With this, we saw 84 different designs.”

The fee the credit union paid 99designs covered not only the reward for the winner but also the costs associated with sponsoring the contest. According to Keator, crowdsourcing saved the credit union anywhere from a few thousand dollars up to $10,000. However, just because the credit union crowdsourced the design doesn’t mean it didn’t put plenty of its own work into the project. The marketing team spent time managing the project, collecting materials, and communicating with designers.

“The most important thing I learned is when you’re working on these types of projects, you definitely need to allot a decent amount of time to make sure you get it done right,” Keator says.

That being said, he is confident the site — which launched in beta in February 2013 — will be a success. And for future design projects, the credit union might again turn to crowdsourcing.

The New needed a facelift and a smoother interface both for users on the front end as well as for site maintenance and content posting on the back end. Part of the Sunmark brand is Be Happy, Look For The Sun. For site visitors, the aesthetic design of the new website reflects that sentiment through vibrant imagery and bright colors. For site coordinators, a content management system simplifies the technical skills needed to post content. No more hard coding. And with automatic rate updates, members can rest assured that what they see on the site will be what they get when they contact the credit union.


The Sunmark website before (L) and after (R) the redesign.